Archive of ‘Wilderness Engagement’ category

Nakasendo Reflection

For this year’s expedition, I went on a hiking trip along the Nakasendo trail. We started off at the post town called Nakatsugawa and ended at Narai. We walked approximately 25km in total within the five days of the trip.

Nakasendo was one of the five routes that was used for transportation during the Edo period and connected Tokyo to Kyoto. According to our guide, most parts of the trail are conserved since the Edo period and minimal changes were made only if some parts of the trail needed maintenance. Therefore, we were able to walk on the trail the people back in the Edo period actually used. By walking on the actual trail, I understood how the people back then had to be fit as there were no cars and trains that they could use for transportation and most had to travel on foot, and the trail consisted many uphills and rocky roads.

During the trip, I was able to enjoy the nature and learned how we tend to miss out the beauty of it. At the same time, I also learned the risks that come when walking in the nature without any adaptions for safety.

As we were not allowed to use our phones during this trip, I spent a lot of time observing the nature while hiking. On the first three days, we walked inside forests filled which were abundant with tall trees and a variety of plants. The sound of the breeze and the green color that surrounded me made me feel relaxed and forget about all the school works, and I felt that I was revitalized by the invigorating environment. I understood why people say that living in the nature or rural areas makes them feel more healthy and energized. As I do not interact with nature when I am in Yokohama, I realized that I was missing out on something that I should have interacted more with and made me determined to go to parks and enjoy the nature more even when I go back to Yokohama after this trip.

However, I also learned the danger that could rise when living in those environments. One of the dangers that I encountered were insects. There were many unfamiliar bugs along the trail and as I did not have any knowledge about bugs in general, I did not know which of them were poisonous. Since I did not go close to them, I was not hurt by any of them, but as there were possibilities of getting bitten by or getting stung by those bugs, if some of them were poisonous, there are serious consequences could follow. In fact, within the insects that I could distinguish, there were centipedes and wasps so I felt a little scared when I saw them while walking. Another possible risk was the snow. On the fourth and fifth day, we walked on path where there were a lot of snow. Although I had my snow gear on my shoes, as the path were very narrow, there were times where I did not know how to move on, and felt my legs trembling. Some people actually fell and slid off the trail, and that added on to my fear. The sight of them falling also made me think how people back in the Edo period were at greater risk of injury or death as there were no things such as snow gear during that time and they had limited resources to keep them safe.

In terms of skills, I learned how important it is to develop our decision making skills. During this trip, there were times when we had to make a decision based on two different options that were offered. At one time, we were offered two choices – the first one was to go on a difficult route which the guide said that was tough, and the other was to continue the path to descend the mountain. At that time, I was very tired as the mountain we climbed was very steep and I had a lot of muscle pain. However, I also had the feeling of wanting to challenge myself to go up the mountain as it was a rare opportunity. Yet when considering that we were a little late of schedule and that this was a group endeavour, in addition to the fact that we still had two more days left of hiking, I did not want to put myself in too much risk. Therefore, I decided to go with the second option. As a result, I was able to complete the whole tour without any serious injuries. Another important decision making situation that rose in this trip was to decide on the luggages we bring. For this trip, we were only allowed to bring one 45 liter backpack for the entire trip. Therefore, we had to limit the number of clothes and other belongings we were bringing. I personally brought three sets of clothes despite being there for five days as I knew that bringing too much stuff would just bring me hardships during the trip as we had to carry our own luggage throughout the whole hike. However, I heard those who brought more luggage than me saying that there luggages are too heavy, so this also made me notice how decision making is an important skill.

Therefore, through this expedition, I learned the importance of knowing about the nature such as the types of animals and insects which we could encounter, the importance of knowing about the safety procedures, and also the importance of our decision making skills.

Expedition Reflection

For this year’s expedition, I went to Niigata. We went on a 2 nights 3 day hike. The hike was really hard and tiring, but at the same time, it was very fun and refreshing. Since we didn’t have our electronic devices with us, we were able to enjoy the nature by looking at the plants, the sky, and some bugs. We also learned to build a tent and how to cook.

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An image of me and my friends building a tent

Before going to Niigata, I was really nervous since I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep up with the other people. Also, since it was my first time going on an overnight hike, I was a little scared if I was going to be able to handle everything that will occur during the hike. However, during the hike, even though it was a bit hard, I also had fun experiencing something new and the wind felt comfortable since I was sweating.

The boys looking at the view from the top of the mountain

The boys looking at the view from the top of the mountain

This trip might have been a metaphor of the first day of university when I’m alone without my family and having to know about the other students who go to the same university. This is because university is a completely new part of my life and in order to get along with the people there, I have to try to get closer to them without relying on anyone else.

The wilderness that existed in Niigata such as the forests and mountains tells how the people there value the nature since I heard that the local people take a lot of time to maintain the hiking trails as well as the areas around the hiking trails. Also, since it snows a lot in Niigata, the mountains are important to invite tourists to their area so that they can enjoy winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. This leads to their benefit in economy and will help the local people’s lives by using the money they earned to make the place better.

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A view of the mountains seen from the trail